Tag Archives: kilimanjaro

WOMAN TRAIL LEADER: Enjoylight Mafuwe

WOMAN TRAIL LEADER FEATURE

Meet Enjoylight Mafuwe.  She lives in Moshi, Kilimanjaro, Tanzania and works as a porter for Kilimanjaro climbs.  The video-podcast features Enjoylight’s story as a porter for Kilimanjaro treks.

BACKGROUND

In February of 2017, my social enterprise, Peak Explorations, organized a group to trek up Kilimanjaro via the Northern Circuit route.  Enjoylight was one of the only 3 female porters out of 24 porters in our group.  She has been working as a porter for at least 3 years.  The job is unpopular for women but some women like Enjoylight pursued such kind of employment out of necessity and due to a lack of employment options.  Porters earn very minimal wages – usually below $10 a day.  Life as a porter is difficult.  One obvious reason is because of the physically demanding nature of the job as porters have to carry a load of 30 pounds or more up the mountain for several days.  At the same time, you would have to subject your body to varying types of elements outdoors, from rain to snow or hot to freezing temperatures.

For Enjoylight, the next natural step to take is to become a lead guide for Kilimanjaro.  To do so,  one must obtain certification and licensure by taking a one year course and a year or two of field training.  The costs associated with this are exponential for the locals in the area.  Many cannot afford to pursue a job beyond being a porter.

Enjoylight talks about her dreams of becoming a lead guide.  She has not been able to pursue her dreams of being a guide due to lack of finances to fund her education and training.  Her story is all too common for the very small number of females working in the mountains of Kilimanjaro.  Female guides are few and far between, mainly due to the lack of money to afford additional training.

KILIMANJARO WOMAN GUIDE SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

Inspired by Enjoylight’s story and the women of Kilimanjaro,  Peak Explorations and Brown Gal Trekker lauched the Kilimanjaro Woman Guide Scholarship Program to raise funds to help the women who have a passion for the mountains in Moshi/Kilimanjaro region to pursue their dream of becoming a lead guide for Kilimanjaro climbs.   Peak Explorations and Brown Gal Trekker jointly aim to empower women to pursue leadership roles on the mountain trails while improving the lives of the locals.

We have partnered with a female owned local trekking agency in Moshi and a guide training school in Arusha to establish this project to support women like Enjoylight in pursuing a better paying job in the mountain trekking/tourism industry.  Oftentimes, local trekking agencies overlook women for the opportunities to train as a guide.  By doing so, we are also  elevating the roles and status of women in a predominantly male driven industry.

The total cost for the guide training and licensure is $1100.  This will cover the one year course, boarding, field trip fees and exam/licensure.   With a goal of $2200, we can provide scholarships to two women.  Women who are selected for these scholarships will have to undergo a formal application process.

Upon successfully securing the funds, the founder of Peak Explorations, Marinel de Jesus, will be flying to Kilimanjaro region in February of 2018 to meet with the selected applicants and our local partners to initiate the training program.  This meeting will be documented and filmed which will then be shared with our wonderful supporters and donors.  A group of female hikers from U.S. who are joining us for the Kilimanjaro Women Only Charity Trek in February, 2018 will also get to personally meet our selected applicants. (See below for more information on this charity trek).  My social enterprise will continue to monitor the selected applicants’ progress with their training program to ensure a successful completion of it.  All donors and supporters can follow along by subscribing to our media outlet, Brown Gal Trekker.

Support the women of Kilimanjaro region by donating to our GoFundMe campaign HERE.

Enjoylight and the small community of women in Moshi/Kilimanjaro region wish to thank you in advance for your support.  Your donation will affect the lives of women in this mountain region in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.  So, thank you!

KILIMANJARO WOMEN-ONLY CHARITY TREK

In addition to this donation page,  Peak Explorations has organized a women-only charity trek of Kilimanjaro, which is set to occur in February, 2018.  5% of the trip cost will be donated to the Kilimanjaro Woman Guide Scholarship Program.   The hope is to establish this program as an ongoing social project through Peak Explorations and expand its scope to women working on the mountain trails in other parts of the world such as Nepal and Peru.  You can also support us by joining this trip!  To join and learn more, go HERE.

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Are You Brave Enough? Summiting a Peak That Almost Killed You

I can see IT, touch IT, smell IT.  

“THIS”

The summit, that is.  In just a matter of days I will once again come face to face with a mountain or a volcano rather that has instilled this lingering fear in me.  Her name is Kilimanjaro.

A few years back, I made an ambitious attempt to summit Kilimanjaro via the shortest route – Marangu.  By shortest, I mean 2.5 days to go up the summit.  Sounds intense?  It’s more than intense. I almost died from the onset of symptoms of pulmonary edema.  By the time I hit the last hut, Kibo, on the night I was scheduled to summit, I barely could lift a fork to feed myself pasta.  To be frank, that was one of the scariest night of my life.  A German doctor who happened to be at the hut that night looked me over and said rather bluntly, “You know you’re not making it right?  You’d die if you continue on.  Well, that is if you can even walk at this stage.”

She was right. I couldn’t walk anymore.  My lungs were starting to fill up with fluids and my breathing was significantly limited.  As the night progressed, I started coughing and fever set in.  The minimal amount of oxygen left me devoid of any ability to even fully comprehend my surroundings.  Unbeknownst to her, in silence, I cried that night while the hikers and I made our attempt to get some sleep before the midnight start time for the summit.  My younger self then was consumed with a sense of “failure” – one that I dreaded on the trek.  After all, I came to Kilimanjaro to conquer the peak.  Being only 6-8 hours away from the goal was heart-wrenching.  I was that close to possessing the prize.  But I knew I had no choice except to quietly lay on that top bunk bed struggling to keep myself conscious and awake.  Minutes before midnight, I could hear the noises coming from the adrenaline-fueled hikers that were hastily preparing their gear for the ultimate hike up the summit.  Their day of hiking would take anywhere between 10 and 14 hours to complete whereas my activity for that day took a different shape, one in which I have to be transported down the mountain as soon as daylight arrived.

As they left the room, I felt a sense of disappointment at myself. I could barely stand the thought that I allowed the journey to lead me to this –a distraught, debilitated and hardly functioning version of myself – fully surrendering to the defeat.  I recalled laying in silence for a long time while fearing that if I closed my eyes, I may never open them up again.  Never.  In other words, it dawned on me that quite possibly I might die tonight. 

I thought about my family and friends, how far away they were and without a clue of the predicament that I was in.  Fear mixed with despair wasn’t something I ever conjured in my mind until that night. My only goal at that moment was to survive.  I preoccupied my mind with thoughts, no matter how random they maybe just to avoid the allure of sleep. I reflected on how events unfolded leading up to that point.  Perhaps I became too overly confident that I can conquer any peak I so desire in light of the fact that I successfully trekked up Thorung La Pass on Annapurna Circuit in Nepal just months prior.  Now, as fate intended, I was learning the hard way that being overly confident in Kilimanjaro worked against me.  The decision to hike up over the shortest amount of time worked against me. Now, I myself was against me for making such reckless decisions that led me to this unwanted fate.  I was angry at the situation and myself while placing most of the blame on me.  What was supposed to be an ordeal with summiting had turned into one dealing with survival.

As daylight came the next morning, I was notified of the porters’ arrival at the hut to lift and carry me back down the mountain as a means for me to survive.  The plan was to transport me back to the lower hut where I was expected to reunite with my hiking companions.  To add insult to injury, the transport down via a homemade stretcher was quite a bumpy ride as the porters, my saviors, hurried down the rocky trail as if I was as light as a feather.  Speeding down the mountain did mean a quicker recovery, however.   In fact, within minutes of arriving at the lower hut, I felt completely functional again without a hint of any of the symptoms I endured earlier at higher altitudes.  I survived physically.  But then I wondered, “Would I survive the feeling of failure?”

This all happened in 2009.  Eight years went by and the experience continued to haunt me. I reflected on the sense of defeat while the passage of time which carved out the space I needed to detach from the horrific experience allowed me to grow as a person.  That process of growth afforded me the chance to see the incident from a more mature view point.  Over time, I found a way to release my pent-up frustration and fears that caused me to question myself as a hiker.  I hated every second that I felt this way.  I was scared that if I ever make a second attempt to reach the mighty peak of Kilimanjaro that I will be forced to bare the utmost sense of failure yet again.  Eventually, I learned to forgive myself which proceeded to restore my sense of self-worth.  This process then led me to realize that the power of fear to deter our ability to function to our fullest potential was in essence merely an illusion.

And so, years went by.  Life moved on.  I continued to hike and trek other parts of the world.  But, still, I continued to debate in my head the ultimate question – will I ever make a second attempt?  I promised myself that if I ever decide to do so, it will be for the right reasons.  For 7 years, I hardly considered renewing any commitment to returning to Kilimanjaro and even decided at some point, “Hell no, I will never go back.”  

However, from out of nowhere, I found myself inspired to return.  An epiphany unexpectedly entered my psyche dictating that I should go and make a second attempt.  This time around it’s not so much about proving to myself that I can summit.  Instead, it’s more about proving to myself that I’m fearless and that no matter what the outcome maybe, my self-love is strong enough to resist the pull of the ego to define my inability to summit as “failure.”  Since the fiasco, I’ve been sheltering my heart and mind from the lingering frustrations of the experience.  Eventually, this constant denial left me feeling weary of this baseless fear and my constant subconscious effort to shield myself from it, so much so that one day I decided, “what the hell, it’s time to go back to conquer this fear once and for all.”

As you can see, it took 8 years to finally muster the courage to revisit this unfortunate circumstance.  Whatever reluctance I might have had in the beginning have all dissipated at this point.  Now, I’m genuinely looking forward to the moment I set foot on Kilimanjaro’s trails again armed with my new sense of self – scared but courageous enough to conquer that very same fear.

I am of course returning to Kilimanjaro equipped with lessons from the first attempt.  The lessons include devoting some serious mental preparation for it in addition to the physical training to ensure that my body is at its best shape to overcome the challenge that lies ahead.  From running a half marathon to walking 30 miles in one day with my usual intense hot yoga and cardio workout in between, I am facing this personal fear of Kilimanjaro with the best mindset and physical capabilities that I can possibly have.  I have been diligently preparing for this moment including my extensive research on the best route that will guarantee a higher level of success.  I also added at least 4 more days to the ascent to ensure proper acclimatization to the altitude.  I even wrote notes to myself about how best to prepare for the altitude from a mental standpoint.  Finally, my trekking gear has been upgraded and replenished to withstand cold and windy conditions, which should make the experience less excruciating.

Completing the Charleston half marathon to prepare mentally and physically.

In a few days I’ll be en route to the summit of Kilimanjaro.  As I do so, I intend to remind myself of a meaningful conversation with a random unnamed fellow hiker who shared with me some wonderful wisdom – “what makes one courageous is not the first time experience of successfully climbing a peak; rather, it’s failing at it the first time and yet making a second attempt at it despite the fear of failing yet again.”

If he’s right about that notion, then this only means one thing – that I was courageous then, but more courageous now for facing the same challenge the second time around after a failed attempt.  With that in mind, I forge ahead with my head up high. Trekking Kilimanjaro or any mountain peak for that matter has taught me first and foremost to face my fears. Second, success is defined not by what we do in a physical sense but rather what we tell ourselves regardless of the direction the journey takes us.  Hence, no matter the outcome  the second attempt of Kilimanjaro yields, one thing is for sure this time around – either way, there is no defeat but only life lessons and gratitude for the experience.

So, are you brave enough to go back and tackle that mountain that you didn’t summit?  You are.  You will.

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OUTDOOR WOMAN’S VOICE: Andrea of Andy in the World

We, hikers, are more similar than we think.  If you ever doubt that, please let me give you some arguments to support that statement.

I took one year to travel and trek.  Andy did as well.

I have trekked the Inca Trail.  Andy has done the same.

In fact, I’ll add Mont Blanc in Europe, Torres del Paine in Chile, Banff in Canada, Haleakala National Park in Maui and Yosemite.  We both have trekked in those places.

Add Kilimanjaro, South Africa and Nepal, which I’ve been to.  These three are on Andy’s bucket list.

Obviously, Andy and I have similar tastes when it comes to mountains.  Not only that, but we are also both fortunate to be part of the same supportive community of female hikers called Hike Like a Woman.  And, I’m quite happy to add, Andy is also part of the Don’t Date a Girl Who Treks project.  Who knew there is such a thing as being twins in the trekking world?  Well, now you know.  With all that said, I’m excited to share Andy’s hiking story.  She’s truly an adventurer and a source of inspiration; hence, I’m thrilled to have her featured on this series.   After all, Andy has already inspired a significant number of people.  Need some proof of that?  Check out her Facebook page and see for yourself her number of followers.

Feature Outdoor Woman’s Voice

Andrea “Andy” Buzeta is from Kennesaw, GA who currently resides in Canton, GA.   Andy is back in the working world after a full year of traveling and hiking.  But not for long.  She already has some adventures in mind. Her next trip will be in Colorado for a week of hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park.   Locally, Andy hikes around North Georgia mountains, metro Atlanta and the Smokies.  She usually takes 1 to 2 hiking trips a year abroad or to a U.S. National Park.  When off the trails, Andy loves traveling that entails experiencing other cultures and cuisines.  She’s also fond of biking, kayaking, salsa dancing and reading.

How did you discover hiking?

I first started hiking 8 years ago- 2008. I had moved from the city (Atlanta) to the country (North Georgia) when I had first got married to my then husband. I was bored and having culture shock because there was nothing to do- no crowded bars and nightclubs, no international restaurants, it was even hard to find a gym. While I was out driving one day, I found Amicalola Falls State Park and hiked some of the trails.  Upon hearing that the Appalachian Trail starts there and goes all the way to Maine, I was fascinated!  Also the 2 mile loop I did with 600 stairs in the middle made me realize that I was out of shape!  It became my goal to be able to do that 2 mile loop without feeling like I was going to die.

What is your most memorable hiking experience to date?

My most memorable hiking experience to date was my trip to Chile in January 2015.  It was supposed to be a 6 day backpacking trip called the “Trail of the Neighbors”, trekking Chile’s famous Futaleufu River Valley.  The trip would depart from near the little town of Futaleufu and take me to a camp located at the confluence of the Futaleufu and Azul rivers.  It would be a circumnavigation of the Teta peak along side the Espolon lake, while experiencing deep immersion of Patagonia culture with homestays in remote ranches. Well, that’s what I went to do.  But I ended up on an expedition from the Andes to the Ocean on horseback, because the route was too dangerous on foot. A volcanic eruption a few years before had left the route too dangerous, with rivers unsafe to cross on foot.  I later learned that this was a bucket list trip for horseback enthusiasts. I had never even rode a horse before. It was way out of my comfort zone to trust an animal to carry me up high mountain passes and to cross rushing rivers.

That’s quite a surprise – from walking to horse riding!  That’s why it’s memorable indeed.  

What do you like the most about hiking?

What I like most about hiking is the mental meditation that it is for me.  It completely clears my head and rids me of my anxieties.

I couldn’t agree more with that.  To me, the meditative part is the most alluring aspect of hiking.  

Do you enjoy hiking solo or with others more?

It depends.  I enjoy hiking solo more as a general rule, when I am just going out for a hike on the weekend.  On trips, especially international trips, I enjoy the group comraderie, meeting like-minded people from all over the world, and sharing the experience.

What are some lessons you’ve learned from hiking?

First, to be truly present in the moment.  Put away the IPhone. Put one foot in front of the other, breathe in and out, see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the scents around you.  Second, some things seem impossible when really they aren’t, it is just your brain telling you so. For example I look at a pass and think wow, there is no way I’m going up and over that. But you just put one foot in front of the other and next thing you know, you’re there!  Third, when you’re lost and cannot find the way, sometimes prayer really is what works.

What advise would you give to women who are new to hiking?

1) Always go prepared- with water, rain gear, etc. 

2) Don’t not go hiking because you don’t have anyone to go with, go alone anyway. Start at your local state parks and get comfortable there, then you will have more confidence to venture out for hikes in other places.

Please share with us your 3 favorite hiking photos and the reasons why they are your favorites.

This is in Banff National Park, Canada, in July of 2014.  This was the day I went over my first real high mountain pass. I was very happy because I had accomplished something new. The scenery around me was so very beautiful!

This is going up Macchu Picchu Mountain in Peru, in April 2016.  This was a very challenging hike, because you have to climb 2000 stairs above 10,000 feet in altitude.  The air was thin and it was hot and humid.  But about halfway through I got this crazy second wind and zipped up to the top!

The next picture is from the Tour du Mont Blanc in August 2015.  This was right near the border of Switzerland and France. Our group was about to close the loop we started 10 days before. The weather was just gorgeous this day and I was enjoying every moment.

With all these beautiful trekking experiences you’ve had, what other treks do you still have on your bucket list?

I would like to do a trek in Nepal in the Everest region or Annapurna region.  I would also like to do a trek in Africa- either Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, or something in South Africa.

What is your favorite hiking gear and why?

I love my Merrell Moab Waterproof shoes.  They have taken me all over the world.

Andrea shares with us 3 favorite trails.

In July 2016 I took a trip to Yosemite National Park in California and did day hikes for 6 days.  My favorite hike was the Panorama trail, which starts at Glacier Point, passes Nevada Falls, and ends in Yosemite Valley.
 

In February 2016, I took a trip to Hawaii (Maui and Lanai) and did day hikes for 6 days.  My favorite hike was the Sliding Sands trail in Haleakala National Park, which is a dormant volcano.  The terrain of this place is the closest you can be to walking on another planet!

In October 2015, I hiked a 100 kilometer section of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, starting in Sarria and ending in Santiago de Compostela.  The Camino is an ancient pilgrimage route to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried.   This walk was 8 days, 2 of which were in the pouring rain.  This hike really tested me.  Even though the terrain was flat and much easier than trekking in the mountains, the 2 days of rain and amount of time walking on concrete really took its toll on my feet.  This was also my first solo trek.  On others I have typically gone with a group.  It was a great experience.

What was the toughest hike or trek you have done?

It was actually the section I did of the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  It was physically more challenging to me because walking on flat terrain, sometimes paved, for longer distances was harder on my feet and legs than walking up and down mountains all day. I got leg cramps that I had never had before. I walked 2 full days in very heavy rain so I got blisters also. It was also mentally challenging. I expected to be meeting and connecting with lots of people, but the rain had everyone just trudging along only focused on getting to the next town. This was also my first solo trek, so when my phone died from getting too wet, it did increase my anxiety.

Yikes!  That is one heck of a blister.  I do agree with flat paved paths as a challenge.  I’ve had that same issue in the past myself as it can be mentally challenging due to the lack of variety of the trail.  

Have you run into any challenges personally as a “female” hiker?

 No, not really.  On one of those really rainy days walking on the Camino, I did have a man pull over and offer me a ride to the next town.  I asked the pair of hikers behind me and the pair in front of me if he had offered a ride to them and they said no.  I’m pretty sure it was just a nice person offering me a ride, but being a female alone, my guard was up and I declined.

One last thing, Andy leaves us with her favorite quote from one of my favorite authors to inspire us all.

“If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” 
                                       – Paulo Coelho

Andy manages to document all her adventures via her blog,  Andy in the World which launched in August of 2015.   In her blog, she documents not only the treks that she has done but also her non-trekking travels.  I do enjoy the fact that she is eclectic in that she does combine her love of the mountains with regular traveling.   With us being so similar in tastes and with my social enterprise (Peak Explorations), I get the sense our paths will cross sooner than later, and that’s something I look forward to!  Until then, you and I can follow Andy via her blog to see what mountain trails or cities she’s exploring.  And if you did end up checking her Facebook page earlier, you would then have discovered that she has over 17,000 followers!  Proof enough of her being a source of inspiration in the traveling and trekking world.

You can follow Andrea via her blog, Andy in the World and social media:  Facebook 

If you know of an outdoorsy woman who you think should be featured on the OUTDOOR WOMEN’S VOICES SERIES (yourself included), please see THIS LINK to find out how to be a part of it.

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Kilimanjaro Kills! Here Are 13 Ways to Survive

Kilimanjaro almost killed me.

The first time was no joke.  Lessons were taught by the mighty Kilimanjaro on how not to mess with her without proper preparation and a healthy mindset.  At the last hut, Kibo, was when I had to make the painful decision to turn around.  At that point, the symptoms of altitude sickness had increased tremendously to the point I was experiencing symptoms of High Altitude Pulmonary Edemy (HAPE).   It hurt to decide not to go forward because I was just a few hours away from the summit.  However, surviving the ordeal taught me important lessons in dealing with high altitude trekking and ensuring a non-fatal ascent.

kili4

While many mountaineers aspire to trek up Kilimanjaro for very good reasons, one being the peak is part of the 7 summits, it is prudent to keep in mind the dangers involved in climbing this non-technical trail.  Your number one enemy in this case is the altitude, among other possible deterrents that are mentioned below

Here are 13 ways to survive the dangers on the trails of Kilimanjaro and cross it off your bucket list for good:

  1. Before even flying out to Kilimanjaro airport, learn about the symptoms of altitude mountain sickness (AMS) and the appropriate treatment.  The internet has extensive articles on the subject.  You can dive into it as deeply as you’d like but at the very least, you should know the signs to look for to indicate whether your body is experiencing some negative effects from the altitude.  However, only study the topic to the extent it gives you sufficient knowledge on the symptoms and treatment.  I know some people who scare themselves off from reading too much about it.  Although knowledge is certainly useful in this instance, on the other hand, make sure not to overdo it to a  point you cause yourself unnecessary stress and anxiety.  Your mental disposition is one of the key things for a successful ascent as discussed below.  Hence, find a balance between knowing enough about AMS and knowing about it too much.
  2. From knowing the symptoms follows knowing the treatment.  Diamox is one common medication that prevents and treats AMS.  Make sure to talk to your doctor regarding the appropriate usage in your case as the dosage can depend on each person’s medical history and condition.  These days it is easy to obtain a prescription from your primary care physician, which most health insurance covers.  No need to go to a travel doctor, which can be costly.  While you’re at it, ask for antibiotics for stomach issues.  You’re likely not going to need it but it doesn’t hurt to have it just in case.  Another prescription drug which is used for treating HAPE is some form of steroid.  You can ask your doctor about this particular medication and decide if it’s something you wish to bring with you as a treatment measure for HAPE.  Typically, HAPE is treated by descending as soon as the initial symptoms appear.  If you get to a point in which you’re prompted to use medication to treat HAPE, that usually means you’ve already gone much higher than you should have.  This isn’t a smart way to trek given the risk of death resulting from HAPE.
  3. So, the last point naturally brings me to this – learn to listen to your body and be honest with yourself when it comes to your body’s condition.  Sure, you paid tons of money to conquer Kilimanjaro, but will you allow the mountain instead to conquer you?  And leave you dead?  No. Life is too precious to lose over a mountain. Let’s be honest.  We love the idea of success.  We’re obsessed with the the idea of conquering Kilimanjaro and crossing it from our bucket list of peaks to bag.  But guess who’s the one who makes the call whether you go forward or not?  No, not the ego.  It’s your body.  I witnessed runners run up the mountain like they’re jogging in the city. I’m not sure why they would do that but as days progressed, I realized it was their ego talking.  The ego in their heads told them to go fast so they can be the first to arrive at the hut every night.  Sure, they did get there first.  But once they were above 12,000 feet, they realized the inevitable – your body needs to adapt to the altitude.  Instead of listening to their bodies, they acted against their bodies’ natural state.  Hence, I wasn’t surprised later on to find out that they didn’t make it to the summit.  Kilimanjaro is the kind of mountain that will punish you for being a speedy Gonzales.  Keeping the ego in check will serve you better.
  4. How will the mountain reward you? By going the opposite- “pole, pole,”  which is Swahili for slowly, slowly.  Every local says it, chants it, preaches it, and even yells it at those who refuse to listen. There’s a reason why.  It’s the only style of hiking that will make you conquer Kilimanjaro.  Practice the idea now so when you hear your guides say this, your tendency to go fast will be put on sleep mode by the time you start the trek.  In our hiking lives, we are prone to wanting to go faster.  It’s just in our nature to work on our speed.  In this case, you must throw that idea out the window.  And trust me, it sounds easy but it’s actually hard.  Your adrenaline is pumping.  You see other hikers on the trail and like most people you don’t want to be that last one to arrive.  To reverse that thinking is unnatural.  Hence, I would emphasize one more time- practice your walk now at a lesser than normal speed.  That way you would not have any difficulties adjusting when you’re on the actual trail.  You’ll have one less thing to worry about.
  5. Drink plenty of water. Get into the habit of drinking even if you’re not thirsty.  This is especially important when you are taking Diamox as this medication causes dehydration.  You need to make sure you are drinking enough water.  For altitude, sufficient water intake is also deemed to help.  It’s a general rule in life that is definitely worth practicing on the trail, no matter which peak you’re bagging.  Drink enough water.  Always!
  6. Eat well on the trail.  This is not so much of an issue given that most trekking operators feed you more than enough nutritious food, especially carbohydrates.  Eat enough carbs but don’t overfeed yourself.  Snacking on protein bars is a great way to supplement you with energy so make sure to bring trail bars with you because the town, Moshi, where you spend the night prior to the trek, is devoid of any nutritious trail snacks.
  7. Get good rest and sleep.  I cannot emphasize it enough how important this is.  Enough sleep every night is going to determine your body’s overall functioning the next day.  It’s the best means of preventing or treating any illness on the trail.  Know that it is cold at night so make sure that you bring the right gear to give you enough warmth to allow you to have a restful sleep.  Sleepless nights on the trail can certainly impact your chances of making it to the top.  Likewise, rest is important during the hike each day.  As noted above, you must listen to your body.  If it tells you to stop and rest, then you do so.  When it tells you it’s ready to move, then go.
  8. Do the longest route possible to the summit of Kilimanjaro.  I made the mistake of doing the shortest route, Marangu, which takes you to the summit in 3-4 days.  This is the only route that has huts and so no tenting needed.  It might have been warmer at night time via Marangu but the ascent was suicidal given the elevation that you gain from 1860  meters to 5895 meters in 3-4 days.  The success rate for summiting stands at less than 30% whereas the longest route via the newer trail, Northern Circuit, has a success rate of around 80% as it gives you 3-4 extra days to summit.  Of course, the longer route would mean it’ll be more costly.  One thing I learned from all this though is that climbing Kilimanjaro is such a major endeavor that you should do it properly the first time around.  Otherwise, if you don’t summit, then you do it again which means you end up spending more money than if you did it right the first time.
  9. Get medical and emergency evacuation coverage.  Considering the risk factors of climbing this peak, it’s a no brainer, really.  Make sure you are covered by adequate insurance in case of medical emergencies.  Luckily, in my case, the guide was able to arrange for porters to bring me down the mountain via a stretcher. In other cases, a more immediate evacuation may be necessary and require a helicopter rescue.  It’s worth investing in having the appropriate medical insurance and emergency evacuation for these reasons.  Also, do keep in mind only certain insurance companies offer medical and emergency evacuation for trekking that involves high altitude.  Make sure to check that they cover the activity and the specific altitude as some only cover trekking up to a certain elevation.
  10. Provide any relevant medical information to your guide.  It may not be altitude that gets you on the trail, but allergies of some kind.  Make sure that you inform your guide or trek operator ahead of time if you have medical conditions that should be noted. THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO BE SHY ABOUT IT.  Failure to disclose can cause you your own health, and perhaps, life so be honest and upfront.  Trek operators are expected and required in most instances to ensure confidentiality of their client’s personal information so there’s no need to worry about others finding out.
  11. Work on your cardio and stay active.  Being fit may not keep altitude away from pestering you and causing you to experience symptoms but the fitter you are, the less issues you’ll have on the trail, besides the altitude, that is.  After all, walking up from 1800 meters to over 5000 meters requires tremendous amount of cardio and fitness, and more so at high altitude.
  12. Know your blood type and carry a medical card with said information.  Let’s go back to basics.  If you don’t know your blood type or have forgotten it, find out before your trek.  If any injuries occur that would require blood transfusion, this is a critical piece of information that can save your life.   It’s worth knowing that in some countries, certain blood types are rare to find.  You can find out more about altitude and it’s impact on blood types and about organizations globally that can help with rare blood types via this article:  High Altitudes Can Change Your Blood
  13. Finally, learn to let go of the pressures of making it to the top.  Those who do make it to the top of any high altitude peak are usually calm and deliberate in their efforts to be stress-free in their journey to the top.  If it’s not the altitude that will stop you from summiting, then my next bet would be the mental challenge that is inherent in this endeavor.  I know of people who were physically fine and could easily have trekked up to the top but didn’t because fear stopped them.  Don’t fall into that trap.  Don’t compete or succumb to the pressure of comparing your abilities with others.  Don’t bother questioning who will make it or who won’t or canvassing among your peers who will be the first or last to make it.  Seriously, just don’t.  Their journey on this mountain or any mountain for that matter, is totally different from yours.  Respect that and just focus on your own path.  Preoccupying yourself about others’ abilities eats up energy that you can be using towards hiking up to the top and is merely a distraction that serves no purpose in your own unique journey.   The healthier your mind is, the less ailment and stress you’ll experience on the trail.  Meditate, nap or listen to music to relax you when you get to camp.  While you take care of your physical body by eating and sleeping, your mind also requires the utmost attention while on a trek that is as strenuous as one that will take you to the highest point in Africa.  Yes, so much pressure, indeed.  But your best approach is to stay calm and focus on trekking up that peak, one step at a time.

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With all the above pointers, you’re ready to conquer Kilimanjaro.   Either way, the mountain will always be there.  You, on the other hand, have one life to contend with.  Take care of it, and the peak will show itself to you sooner or later.

And remember, Pole, pole!”

As a side note, Brown Gal Trekker is going for part 2 to trek up Kilimanjaro in February, 2017 via the Northern Circuit route as referenced above.  It’s a 12 day trip with other fellow solo trekkers via her social enterprise, Peak Explorations.  You’re welcome to join her and her group of adventurers. See more via this link: KILIMANJARO (NORTHERN CIRCUIT)

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